Three examples of marine life in the Antarctic: Seals and krill live in the Southern Ocean. Penguins live on the Antarctic continent and rely on the ocean for food.
Click on image for full size
Upper/middle photos courtesy of Uwe Kils and lower photo courtesy of Stan Shebs

Antarctic Marine Life

The chilly waters of the Southern Ocean are home to a variety of marine creatures including eight whale species, six seal species, many fish species, and Antarctic krill, a small shrimp-like animal that is a key food for other species in the Southern Ocean.

There are 17 species of penguins in Antarctica. Penguins are part of the marine food web even though they live on land because they are dependant on the ocean for food. Other bird species depend on the Southern Ocean for food too such as the black-browed albatross and the Antarctic petrel.

The Southern Ocean food chain begins like most marine food chains, with primary producers called phytoplankton. Through photosynthesis, phytoplankton convert the Sun’s energy into food. Animals like Antarctic krill eat the phytoplankton and then larger animals such as penguins eat the krill. However, the Antarctic ozone hole has caused the amount of phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean to drop by as much as 15% which could eventually have an impact on the whole food chain.

Last modified January 22, 2007 by Lisa Gardiner.

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

The Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean is a bit different. Many mapmakers do not even recognize it as an ocean. The Southern Ocean (sometimes known as the Antarctic Ocean or South Polar Ocean) surrounds Antarctica in the...more


Antarctica is unique. It is the coldest, windiest, and driest continent on Earth. The land is barren and mostly covered with a thick sheet of ice. Antarctica is almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle...more


Photosynthesis is the name of the process by which autotrophs (self-feeders) convert water, carbon dioxide, and solar energy into sugars and oxygen. It is a complex chemical process by which plants and...more

Life in the Polar Regions: Animals, Plants, and Others in Extreme Environments

All sorts of living things call Earth’s polar regions home – from tiny lichens encrusting the rocky landscapes of the Arctic tundra to huge blue whales swimming through the frigid waters of the Southern...more

The Antarctic Region

What Will You Find There? South of the Antarctic Circle (at 66.5°S latitude) you will find the continent of Antarctica surrounded by the Southern Ocean, the geographic South Pole and the magnetic South...more

Warmer Temperatures are Changing Antarctic Phytoplankton

Over the past 50 years, winter temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula have risen five times faster than the global average. Warmer temperatures mean that there is now less sea ice in the nearby Southern...more

Content for Climate Change Education Courses

Looking for online content that can be used for a climate change education course or module? Pages linked below can be used to support an introductory climate change education for either a unit or a full...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA